Many small business owners are active on the networking circuit, committing a not inconsiderable amount of time and money in an attempt to build their businesses.
I’ve also often heard it said that membership of a group comes with certain fringe benefits. The fact that you may need a little bit of legal advice and are good friends with the lawyer in the group may indeed give you access to the advice you need for no cost. And indeed, the ethos of many groups is focused on the building of relationships within the group, building trust, and that the sale takes place outside of the room facilitated by referrals passed within the group.
Yet so many people turn up every week, just to deliver their 60 second sales pitch to a room that’s not really listening (because the others in the room are frantically working out what to say during their 60 seconds), and then wander back to their business hoping that they made an impact, and that next week business will flow their way.
A one-person business can be a lonely place
One of the big challenges for a small business apart from keeping enough business coming in, particularly a one-person business, is that you are the business; sometimes a lonely and isolated place to be, with no-one to bounce ideas around with.
Often living hand to mouth in the early days, you may have considered getting some assistance by hiring a coach to help you move your business forwards, and, if you have one in your group, using them to help you develop. This is also true if you are the coach within the group, except that if it is a group with an exclusive membership, there will not be another coach in the group for you to turn to. But for small businesses, particularly start-ups, the financial cost of hiring a coach can be prohibitive.
However, if your only purpose in attending networking events is to sell your stuff, you may be missing a great opportunity to grow your business whilst helping someone else do the same.
Who holds you accountable?
While I was putting my thoughts together for this blog, I tripped across this on Facebook, posted by a friend of mine who is a coach:
“I'm looking for a fellow COACH that wants to work with me once a week by Skype or in person to hold each other accountable. We will mutually help each other sharing our weekly goals, setting new goals for the following week, motivating, encouraging and celebrating our success. Message me if you are interested.”
I’ve just been through this process myself, having hooked up with a long-term friend, who is a successful one-man business, for a coffee and a catch-up.
We are both getting restarted after a short period out of our businesses due to illness, and he said to me during the conversation “who holds you accountable?”
I asked him the same question, and what developed from that point on was an agreement to touch base once a week to do exactly that, hold each other accountable, to encourage and support each other, and in short to Mentor each other.
How much do we know about each other’s businesses? Enough to understand the challenges of running a one-man business, and that is really all we need to start the process.
So, what is a Mentor?
There are many definitions, but here’s one I grabbed from the first page of an internet search:
‘A mentor is a guide who can help the mentee to find the right direction and who can help them to develop solutions to their issues. Mentors rely upon having had similar experiences to gain an empathy with the mentee and an understanding of their issues’.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
When you attend networking events, you are surrounded by people just like you. People who are trying to make a go of their business, fighting the same self-doubt, engaging in various methods of task avoidance, and frustrated by their own lack of discipline and progress.
What is missing for you, and them, is often as simple as someone to report into.
Remember back in the day when you had a boss, and how that would sometimes help you to get the parts of the job done that you didn’t like just because you were accountable for your actions or lack of them?
That’s what I’m suggesting here.
Find someone you trust
When you are out there on the networking circuit, networking and building relationships, find someone you click with, someone you trust, someone you can be honest and open with, and instead of trying to sell to them, offer them your help in exchange for them helping you.
Have a conversation over a coffee to gain an understanding of each other’s businesses and the challenges therein, and if you find that you can work together, commit to becoming Mentor partners.
Set up a weekly call agreement where you commit to a 5 to 15-minute phone call to check in and find out if you are both on track, if the week went to plan, and if you need to do anything differently next week.
No special expertise is required, just an ability to ask the uncomfortable questions that you already know the answer to, because they are questions that you have asked yourself.
Finding areas to praise and encourage each other is equally important as most small business owners crave some praise and recognition, not that they probably got any when they were employed either.
So, here’s my challenge to you:
Start searching for a mentor, form the relationship, and stick to your commitment to each other.
There’s nothing like a bit of accountability to help get the job done.